Farm businesses that fail to comply with post-Brexit rules on employing migrant workers could face unlimited fines and jail terms from July 1.
This date marks the deadline for foreign workers to apply to live and work in the UK as part of the EU government’s settlement program.
Any company employing staff who cannot prove that they have a pre-established status, established status or a confirmation of request (COA) form is breaking the law.
Failure to comply can result in fines of up to £ 20,000 for each worker, with an unlimited total amount, and penalties of up to five years in prison. As an added deterrent, the government has warned that it will publicly expose the details of each farm that breaks the law.
Alec Herron of the Settled charity has estimated that there could be over 100,000 workers in the UK without the necessary permission to stay in the UK.
Many of them would be farm laborers, Herron said, and it was vital for employers to know whether their staff were complying.
Farmers must be able to prove that every overseas employee and all new workers are authorized to work in the UK and that the correct checks have been carried out.
EU passports or identity cards are no longer valid proof of a right to work in the UK, according to government guidelines.
Workers must have establishment or pre-establishment status, or at least have a COA, which proves that their application to the EU establishment regime was filed by the July 1 deadline.
They should also be able to provide proof of their date of birth and a unique action code that they should have obtained online through the checkout process. Farmers can then use the code to view the status of the applicant on the government website. This will define the type of work they are allowed to do and how long they can stay in the UK.